China’s Uighurs Face Fasting Restrictions
September 11, 2008, 5:48 am
Filed under: Politics, Religion | Tags: , , , ,

The restrictions against Ramadan continue in Xinjiang. I blogged about  this a few days ago.  Here is Al-Jazeera’s take on it:

Ramadan is the most important time of the year, a time of spiritual reawakening that, while at times difficult, is never the less a duty and obligation for all able bodied Muslims.  One hopes that the government in Xinjiang will soon recognize that moving against Ramadan is a counterproductive measure, as it obviously creates more resentment among a restive population.  This crackdown might sever as the impetus for a concerted effort my Uighurs to demand even greater autonomy, something China is obviously opposed to.


Conditions Worsen in Gonaives
September 6, 2008, 3:07 am
Filed under: Environment, Poverty | Tags: , , , ,

Some 250,000 people have been impacted by flooding in Gonaives.  More storms expected in next few days.  From BBC News:

Almost 500 bodies have been found in the port city of Gonaives, Haiti, after floodwaters caused by recent storms receded, according to reports.

Polie commissioner Ernst Dorfeuille said 495 bodies had been found and the toll could get higher.

A ship carrying 33 tons of UN aid arrived in Haiti on Friday to help an estimated 600,000 people struggling in the wake of tropical storm Hanna.

The storm is heading for the US, while Hurricane Ike threatens the Bahamas.

Read On…

Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo reports from Gonaives.

UPDATE: Haitians flee Gonaives before Ike reaches island

Hundreds of people fled this waterlogged city Saturday for higher ground as powerful Hurricane Ike threatened to unleash heavy rain and compound a disaster caused by a previous storm. Food was distributed to famished residents, including to emaciated inmates at the local jail.

With a tropical storm warning issued Saturday for Gonaives and other parts of Haiti, some residents climbed on top of cars to reach the second floor of their homes, where they had piled up furniture and spread sheets to provide shade, said Holly Inurreta of Catholic Relief Services.

Police Commissioner Ernst Dorfeuille told The Associated Press on Saturday that a news report the previous evening that quoted him as saying 495 bodies had been found in Gonaives from Tropical Storm Hanna was completely wrong. He told AP there were 32 confirmed deaths in this city on Haiti’s west coast from the storm that hit on Monday.

China imposes Ramadan security crackdown
September 6, 2008, 2:43 am
Filed under: Culture, Religion | Tags: , , , ,

Some very disturbing news out of China: Chinese authorities in the Muslim dominated northwest of the country have moved to prevent ‘mass prayers and the distribution of religious material as part of a security crackdown for Ramadan.’ According to the AFP, the move is widely seen as a response to a a series of attacks on police by Muslim separatists in Xinjiang. While much of the recent talk centers around the issue of Tibetan independence, China’s Muslims, who also seek independence, often go unheard.  While many Chinese nationalist’s argue that different ethnic groups in China are all treated fairly and equally, this crackdown against Ramadan is a clear form of discrimination.

As the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan began, local governments this week issued orders to clamp down on security in the region and stop its ethnic Muslim Uighur population from using the holy month to foment further unrest.

“Faced with recent violent and disruptive activities by religious extremists, separatists and terrorists, we must… step up ideological education of religious leaders and followers,” a notice posted on Xinjiang’s Zhaosu county website said.

The county government prohibited government officials, Communist Party members, teachers and students from observing Ramadan, while warning that “any person caught forcing another to observe Ramadan” would be punished.

Read On…

Unemployment Rate Hits 5-year High
September 5, 2008, 12:23 pm
Filed under: Economics | Tags: , ,

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that the unemployment rate rose from 5.7 to 6.1 percent in the month of August. The loss of more than 84,000 non-farm payroll jobs last month was higher than economists had anticipated. So far this year, some 605,000 jobs have been lost, and the financial crisis, fueled by the mortgage crisis has forced dramatic changes in the labor market. The higher price of gasoline and the attendant costs that have resulted throughout the supply chain have also put upward pressure on the inflation rate.  In response to the new numbers, House Speaker Nancy Polosi’s office released a statement chastising the Bush administration for their failure to create more jobs:

The economic policies of President Bush and the Republicans have delivered another blow to American families, as 84,000 more workers lost their jobs last month alone. Today, more than 9 million Americans are without work and millions more are struggling with the high cost of gas, health care and groceries, yet John McCain told Americans who are out of work or who just lost their jobs that another four years of the same failed Bush economic policies are the right solution for them and for America.

In terms of industry, construction and retail took the biggest hit:

Construction job losses in July and August averaged 14,000, compared with an average monthly loss of 45,000 during the first half of 2008. In August, residential specialty trade contractors lost 14,000 jobs; since a peak in
February 2006, employment in the industry has declined by 388,000.

Employment in both wholesale and retail trade continued to trend down over the month. Within retail trade, motor vehicle and parts dealers shed 14,000 jobs. Since reaching a recent peak in April 2007, employment in motor vehicle and parts dealers has fallen by 60,000.

However, things are even worse than they appear because the 6.1% figure is much lower than the real unemployment rate. The Bureau of Labor Statistics rate does not account for marginally attached and discouraged workers.

Continue reading

Russia Today on Sarah Palin
September 5, 2008, 6:44 am
Filed under: elections | Tags: ,

A look at Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s foreign policy experience from the Russian perspective. Russia Today is the first 24/7 English-language news channel to present the “Russian point of view on events happening in Russia and around the globe”.

Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin has wasted no time in casting a cloud over Russia. In her keynote speech to the party convention in Minnesota, the Alaskan Governor accused Moscow of using energy as a weapon in its disagreements with the West.

Chad at Buzz Flash has more on Palin and her foreign policy experience vis-a-vis Russia.

Flooding in Haiti Expected to Get Worse
September 5, 2008, 6:13 am
Filed under: Environment, Poverty | Tags: , , ,

One of my good friends is currently in Haiti, doing important work in the Haitian microfinance sector. She reported a few days ago that, because of Hurricane Hanna, flooding has become a major issue in parts of Haiti and that some communities are literally cut off from the rest of the country. In her words, “no one has been able to come and go” anywhere since the hurricane hit. This is particularly true in the historic city of Gonaives, which has been devastated by flooding. Unfortunately, there is little time for Haiti to recover from the effects of Hanna, as Hurricane Ike is expected to hit the country by early next week.

Here in the United States, we occasionally get riled up about hurricanes when they threaten to make landfall, but what is it like for people in the Caribbean and Gulf who are impacted by every single storm that develops in the region?  It would seem that some of these communities are in a perpetual state of recovery, a state that no doubt contributes to the poverty that exists in disparate places like Haiti.

The Associated Press’s Jonathan M. Katz reports from Haiti:

Floodwaters frustrated efforts by Argentine peacekeepers to distribute aid Thursday at orphanages marooned by Tropical Storm Hanna, confining them to their base as desperate people begged for food and water outside.

The official death toll doubled to 137 as Hanna moved north with near-hurricane winds on a path toward the southeastern U.S. coast, with most of the deaths coming in the flooded port city of Gonaives, which had been almost entirely cut off by floodwaters from Hanna.

Another 22 deaths were confirmed in areas surrounding the coastal city. The rest of the deaths were scattered across the country.

Read On…

Perhaps a Sign of things to come: Italy Will Pay Reparations to Libya
September 2, 2008, 3:49 pm
Filed under: Politics | Tags: , , ,


Though unlikely to open the floodgates towards some sort of reparations throughout the developing world, Italy’s decision to compensate Libya for its occupation of the country is interesting. It remains to be seen what action other countries, or at least their publics, will now take given that Italy apologized for its colonial past.  Of course, any political move of this nature is quid pro quo and so while Italy will pay Libya, Libya will undoubtedly be expected to make some concessions of its own. Earlier in the week, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi proclaimed that his country would abandon its socialist policies and embrace the free market system. If that is the case, or even if Libya does decide to embrace the market, the 5 billion it is set to receive from Italy will be chump change in comparison to what multinational corporations will be taking out of the country in the decades to come.

From Time: Italy Pays Reparations to Libya

One of the perks of one-man rule is picking your national holidays. Libya’s Col. Muammar Gaddafi has invented a few fêtes for his North African nation since seizing power in a 1969 coup. Three years ago, during stalled negotiations with Italy over reparations for Rome’s colonial rule in Libya, he added another: Oct. 7 became “Vendetta Against Italians Day.”

Now, in an unprecedented act of contrition by a former European colonial power, Italy has formally apologized for its past injustices during its 30-year reign in Libya early last century, and agreed to pay $5 billion in reparations to Tripoli. Gaddafi promptly declared Aug 30 – the day the deal was inked in – Libyan-Italian Friendship Day.